Wednesday 1 March 2006

Hello Hamid, it's George - see you in 5 minutes

Welcoming surprises
Easy communications serve a purpose of informing and arranging for visits and events.
Many a time when I was in Nigeria, we had guests arrive out of the blue; we joyously exchanged greetings and feted them with food and drinks as they stayed on for hours on end – that however, is the community spirit of friendship and camaraderie.
As for the more professional Nigerian, arrangements were made a foretime usually through the office communications network because mass telecommunications never thrived until mobile telephony pervaded the market in the last few years.
All different in London
However, moving from Nigeria to the UK, one’s time is pre-occupied with goals, purpose and the arduous rigour of survival, that unplanned and unannounced visits are just not on.
This comes as a surprise to people who have just arrived from Nigeria who retain the convivial and miscellany; but the re-education is brutal and swift – we all learn how to live in the West. What a life!
Hamid, it’s George
Then, just imagine the shock Hamid Karzai had yesterday when a very important guest dropped in on him out of the blue.
At least, we all knew that he told the world that he was off to India and then to Pakistan; I suppose Afghani soothsayers might have prognosticated that Hamid should expect a surprise on the First of March.
Afghanistan is now Bush Democracy – the people voted and elected who the American expected to be elected – as opposed to a real democracy – the Palestinians electing who they want, albeit Hamas who the American considers terrorists.
Afghanis pulled it off
Seeing the elaborate preparations that go into planning state visits, the Afghanis must have had to cobble together a good few of their scarce resources to welcome the liberator.
I could not help but notice the quality of the red carpet that lead up to the news conference lecterns. That might sound frivolous, with all protocol thrown away; low-flying helicopters and security so tight that the visit had to be unannounced – this democracy has a long road to travel.
One can wager that Afghanistan is only second to Iraq in everyday violence and carnage, even though they are both occupied with superpower troops.
Alas! Guns and overwhelming firepower can only do so much. The Nemesis - Osama bin Laden is probably hiding in the West wing, because they cannot seem to find him anywhere else and nobody is looking back home.
Unannounced inspection
I can remember when I was in boarding school; every once in a while there was a surprise inspection which included a complete search of all the premises as we were gathered in some other location answering the roll call.
Fear, terror, anxiety written on our faces as hearts pounded like a new Tora-bora event; just in case the house master discovered something seriously out-of-order or rule-breaking.
Then, I think of the protectors of the President as he arrives secretly in Afghanistan, then the Afghani president is told; multiply that with the embarrassment of having guests arrive in Nigeria when you have completely run out of drinks – I think the Afghanis handled it well.
The one question that remains is when any important political figure would be able to announce well ahead of time that they are visiting Afghanistan of even Iraq; that concern is however, moot; the people who live there suffer a lot more.
Afghanistan is what it has become, but Iraq is what we made it.

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